Inferno records (motto: “in METAL we trust – in HELL we’ll BURN!!”) are a reassuring stamp of quality. You know what you’re going to get with inferno – resolutely old-school, full-on metal played by musicians for whom words such as passion and commitment are every bit as important as the musical ability they’ve developed. As a result when we get something from Inferno we know to sit up and take notice and in Elvenstorm the label are onto another winner. To quote the promo materials for a moment “Forged in the eutonic steel’s finest tradition, Elvenstorm delivers with this first album – a real masterpiece of hi-class TRUE HEAVY METAL!” and, as usual, Inferno have got it spot on.
First album??? The first shock is the quality and power of what is on offer – as a first album it’s all the more remarkable that Elvenstorm’s first track, winds of war’ is a biting, melodic, thunderous metal master-class. Combining Girlschool/Doro-style vocals with Maiden-esque headlong charges through pure metal heaven, there’s an inate confidence that comes from the band having worked, played and sweated together for months before heading into the studio. Every note, every beat that rages across the song’s five minutes is perfectly placed and by the time it’s drawn to a close you’re already hooked. Better still is the furious ‘rebirth’ which is pure, old-school heavy metal but made over with a gleaming metal exo-skeleton – the production rendering everything with polished clarity and power. The guitars (actually all provided by Michael Hellstrom who does a good job of sounding like a veritable army of guitarists) are immense whilst Laura Ferreux has a great voice, restrained and yet full of power – capable of belting out the high notes when it’s called for, but just as capable of adopting a more focused attack in the lower registers – she is a true frontwoman, her vocals oozing charisma while the band rage around her. With a name like ‘witchammer’ the third track could hardly fail and when it transpires to have a thrash-style main riff that simply cocks a leg and pisses over the opposition you know you’re onto a winner. A seething cauldron of heavy metal attitude and fantasy lyrics, this is heavy metal as its meant to be heard – all denim and leather – and fans of both Priest and Maiden will find a huge amount to admire here. ‘Struggle within’ has a fantastic chugging riff and a memorable melody line whilst it also slows the pace a touch before the frantic ‘black visions’ throws down the gauntlet to other trad-metal bands out there with a casual nod and fully in the knowledge that on this kind of form, complete with the gang vocals on the chorus, Elvenstorm could slay them all with one scything blast of guitar.
In keeping with the epic artwork, ‘kill the deceivers’ is a full-blooded battle cry – “I’ll build a fire where burns the betrayers / don’t take me down, never even try” that thunders out from the speakers with razor sharp precision as harmonised guitars ring out clear and true and Laura’s voice reaches new peaks. Then there is the epic ‘raven in the blackened sky’, a song that sounds as if it was made to play in the kind of stadiums that Iron Maiden call their home – it’s just a brilliant, timeless driving riff coupled with Laura’s powerful vocals and the sort of melody that will insert itself unwanted into your mind for weeks after listening. In a just world it would top the charts for months. ‘Stand the fall’ takes a brief step back before going straight for the jugular with a furious double kick-drum assault and insanely fast yet catchy riffs. A blinding track it leaves us with only ‘legions of steel’ before the album draws all too quickly to a close. ‘Legions…’ is, however, a great song that closes the album in all-too-epic style, the riffs fast, furious and super-tight and the vocals laden with power.
Inferno have once again pulled an amazing release out of the bag with Elvenstorm – a band that will thrill even the most hardened and cynical of metallers. Passionate, brilliantly played and perfectly written these nine gems are everything that real metal should be and one can only guess at how good this lot must be live, when the sweat and alcohol is in full flow. ‘Of rage and war’ is an excellent album from a band who will hopefully return with more epic songs of blood and fire very soon. In the meantime check this out, you will most certainly not regret it.